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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Black and Latin talent not on the mound but in the batter's box.

Bob Gibson is the only U.S. born black major league pitcher in the Hall of Fame.

That simple, direct, anecdotal fact should make the general point. For whatever reason, the additional talent pool introduced by Jackie Robinson breaking the modern color line in 1947 is overwhelmingly dominated by every day baseball players, not pitchers. 2016 is year 70 of modern integration.

So, the proverbial throw away line that Babe Ruth never faced Satchel Paige is more than silly based on chronology and common sense. And it ignores what has actually happened since 1947.

Babe Ruth never batted against Satchel Paige. Neither did Jackie Robinson. Friday, May 29, 2009

Babe Ruth never batted against Satchel Paige. That is often mentioned by people who want to emphasize that blacks had been excluded from wide participation in MLB before April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the modern color line by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.


Paige (born 1906) was eleven years younger than Ruth (born 1895). The Babe never batted against Satchel in a MLB game. But neither did Jackie Robinson. Paige finally pitched in MLB from 1948 through 1953, plus a one game three inning stunt in Kansas City in 1965.


All MLB games for Paige were in the American League. Robinson played all his regular season games in the National League. More to the point, what top notch pitchers did Robinson face who would have been banned during MLB racial segregation? The best during Robinson's years (1947-1956) was Jackie's Dodger teammate Don Newcombe, winner of the first Cy Young award in 1956.

Even if Paige had been allowed to pitch in MLB the chances were less than 50% that he would have pitched to Ruth. Paige could have pitched in the other league. Had Paige pitched in the same league as Ruth chances were one in eight that he and Ruth would have been teammates. That's less than 50%, not even dealing with the eleven year age difference. Paige would have been 20 in 1926 about the middle of Ruth's career. In 1920 when Ruth hit 50 homers for the first time, Paige was 14 years old.

There is no reason to think that Satchel Paige would have changed Babe Ruth's stats to a significant degree, even assuming that Ruth would have had difficulty hitting Paige.

Paige was probably a great pitcher but what other banned pitchers would have impacted Ruth?

Evidence is anecdotal. It may be uncomfortable for some to address this but great black players were and still are mostly non-pitchers. Why? I don't know.

Since integration in 1947 only three pitchers who would have been banned because of the color of their skin have pitched well enough in MLB to be inducted into the Hall of Fame: Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins. Only Gibson is an American born black. Marichal was born Dominican and Jenkins Canadian. There are no American born black pitchers yet to be considered who would be elected to the Hall of Fame. One dark skinned Hispanic pitcher who would have been banned is a probable Hall of Famer: Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic). That would make a total of four since 1947, 62 years ago.
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How Would Integration Have Affected Ruth and Cobb? Sunday, January 24, 2010

... the real question is whether Cobb and Ruth would still be on top. Obviously, they would unless a black batter did better and that is really difficult to prove...

Clearly there is a big difference between the impact of pitchers and non-pitchers among dark skinned star players who probably would have been banned. Dark skinned stars who were non-pitchers have had far more impact. Why? I still don't know. Finally, how many foreign born Hispanics would have played 100 years ago? If you include them, then what do you make of fact that 28% of MLB players in 2009 were foreign born? How many MLB players in the Cobb and Ruth years would have played in the NFL and NBA, which started in 1947, if those leagues had been viable options? Or gone into pro golf, tennis, track and field, ...? After a point it becomes silly.
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Let's look at the top batters and top pitchers since 1947. I'll use the averages OPS+ and ERA+. No, I don't like WAR, which is a total. Try this with other stats but I doubt that the general conclusion will be different.

Qualifiers 1947-2016:
- 5,800 plate appearances (PA), which includes Jackie Robinson (tied at 132, positions 57-67). Unable to get a count of qualifiers.
- 2,300 innings, which includes Sandy Koufax, who had a short career. 154 pitchers qualified.

Of the top 50, those who probably would have been banned before 1947 (U.S. born are in BOLD) in rank order:

Batters: 24 (17 born in the USA) Bonds, Pujols, Thomas, Allen, Mays, Aaron, Cabrera, Ramirez, Robinson, Stargell, McCovey, Belle, Ortiz, Guerrero, Sheffield, Jackson, Delgado, Strawberry, Guerrero, Smith, Griffey, Doby, Fielder, McGriff.

Pitchers: 7 (2 born in the USA) Martinez, Hernandez, Gibson, Marichal, Sabathia, Jenkins, Tiant.

The difference is stark. Somewhat related posts:

MVP in black and white 1949 (Jackie Robinson) to 2015. Friday, April 15, 2016

Racist Friday, May 2, 2014

When did it become OK to call someone a racist? Sunday, January 26, 2014

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